The Amazighs – The Evolution of Local Governance

The Amazigh, the indigenous people of North Africa; commonly referred to as the Berbers reside in several countries including Algeria, northern Mali, Mauritania, northern Niger, Tunisia, Libya, western Egypt and Morocco (collectively the territory referred to Tamazgha).  The unity of the people and their identity is symbolised in their flag. The central red letter of Tifnagh alphabet, ‘Yaz’ (ⵣ) represents the ‘free man’. Furthermore, the colours of the flag that reflect the physical geography of the Amazigh’s homeland.  The blue denotes the surrounding seas of the countries, the yellow reflects the sand of the desert and green is the land of  its people.

The Amazighs community existed before BC; one of the ancient civilisation of North Africa. The early settlements lead to the development of tribal villages which required a political & social system in their society.  The development of social order was based on justice and equality for all; one of the first democratic system built on principles and values that are seen in modern day democratic societies. Overall, adhering the main principles of good values, solidarity & peaceful co-existence with others within the community.  A tradition that survived over time despite changes in the official state systems, modern living and intensive migration of its people to main cities of North Africa.

Looking more closely at the Amazigh social system establishment,  it was based on  10 social & political principles.  Here we’ll share two of the social systems that served the community:

  • Tiwizi

A community focused social order adopted from ancient scripts that reflects cohesion of individuals in a village or town.  A union or association founded to serve the needs of its community.  A starting point is a discussion of what projects are vital for the sustainability of its people’s lives. Secondly, a review of the skills of its workforce according to their training & experience.  For the unskilled persons, simple tasks such as collecting water and gathering food from the farmland were delegated.  A highly organised system was developed where all tasks are  distributed until the completion of the project.  Several examples of the duties engaged are building roads & bridges, the digging of wells, developing and up keep of irrigation systems and farming.  A shared responsibility of the community serving all members regardless of their own personal circumstances.

  • Timughra

Every community elects a ‘Amghar’; a local governor who role & responsibility is to solve local disputes between individuals, families and neighbouring tribal leaders.  The process of selecting a Amghar is based on the individual’s personal reputation based on his extensive knowledge and experience of local governance.  The personal characteristics of the elected member is based on wisdom, honesty & integrity.  Once elected by the locals, a council is developed including a board of advisers (‘Infallas’) and administrators; a shared responsibility for the good working order of local governance. The whole system is a voluntary organisation of high moral code of conduct which primarily duties are to manage local meetings, adhere to the local customary law, solve private and public disputes through negotiations and first response call to any immediate crisis or emergency.

 

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